Story Twenty – The Madam

The conclusion to ‘Madam Delaunney’s Inn’… which is the name that Aaron finally decided up for this miniseries.

There’s nothing kind about this world. It doesn’t matter where you go or who you know, you have to live for whatever you can find. For a long time, I lived for my husband. He was a fine man. He loved me, he loved life, he loved what he did. He owned a mine and that underground business spawned a town that took his name, Gilbert.

I didn’t care what he did. It was who he was that brought me to him, not his career and not his fortune. I saw him on the street that dark April morning in London. He was different than the other proper men. He had a suit but the legs were muddied with his running through the puddles. He had money, but it was constantly being given away to anyone he thought needed it more than him. The moment a young girl tugged on his jacket tail and gave him a little yellow paper flower and he took it with a kiss on her cheek and a pat on her head, I knew I wanted him. I knew he’d been the one I was waiting for.

I left my sister in the shop and took to following him. I wanted to know more about him. I wanted to speak to him, to smile at him. I’d been waiting longer than he’d probably believe for someone with his heart. My mind made no try at masking my intentions. I didn’t want to simply talk to him or let him take my hand. I was going to claim him as mine.

I later found out that he’d come to London to visit a possible investor for a few new mines back in his home state of California. I already knew he was American, they walked with a different gait, a different countenance that was easy to see. He was a cowboy in gentleman’s clothing. Maybe that’s what I saw in him. Maybe it was the secret grit hiding among the civil that coaxed some girlish side of me to connect so fully, so deeply, so quickly. We were alike in a way that was so different.

Everything about me had always been a little more than most normal folk. I was stronger, faster, could hear better and see further. My mother would tell me to hold back, lest someone see and I wind up on the stake, pike or cross. Sometimes, though, it was a blessing to have so many gifts. In the crowd of people, it’s easier to follow one if you know the scent.

Rain began to fall as I began to cross the street. I was prepared. I could smell it on the wind that morning. It wasn’t very difficult to predict a spring downpour in England. My parasol unfolded and guarded me. The dress wasn’t new but it wasn’t old either. I wanted to keep it as pristine as I possibly could for as long as I could. After going through so many in a lifetime, one becomes rather focused on retention.

His man opened a door to a small office building before I could reach them. They disappeared inside as I stepped off the street. My mind flurried with options. I could have gone in. Working men were never too busy to entertain a young lady. Of course, I may have become caught in the attentions of an unintended admirer and my prey may have escaped in spite of my effort. In the minutes I paced outside the door, I noticed a drenched bit of yellow paper on the ground. The flower, he’d dropped it. The state of it nearly brought a tear to my eye. I picked it up as gently as I possibly could. It tore, but only a little and only at the edges. I kept it with me under my shelter and we both waited for the kind young gentleman whom it had lost and I was hunting.

Had I not been nervous, had I not paced, a habit I picked up from my sheep farming grandfather when he’d wait for a lost member of his heard, I’d never have seen him exit through the back and hurry to a waiting coach.

I simply acted without a thought or care of consequence. I hailed a cab though I’d left my money with my sister, Caoilinn. She was far more responsible with it than I’d ever been. She was the baby, though she was by then a ripe age of sixteen. I was more than double her years but didn’t look a day past her. My parents had given the others such wonderful Irish names. They all meant things of old, things of beauty and fantastical stories were always attached. This habit started after I came. When I’d been born they hadn’t decided on what to call me. A traveling Frenchman, a musician of some kind who’d been living at the house in exchange for his services and a helping hand with the land, dubbed me ‘Ambré’, after my light blonde-red hair already growing in. My mother enjoyed the word. I think she enjoyed the man too. I never looked like my papa, the strong shouldered towheaded farmer with his dark eyes and soft face.

As I grew, my hair turned from amber, to fire, to blood in a wave of darkness that would hit me every year, yet my name stayed the same. Mama would tell me how much I looked like my father. She’d say it in a whisper, only when we were alone. She’d go off the meet the Frenchman at his cabin in the fields, telling papa she was taking him his supper. The man moved away when I was young. He must have been afraid of the murders that were cropping up each month. That was what papa had said. I know if my folks could have moved, they would. My mother watched him leave. She stopped smiling as much after that. Things became better at home though. She started paying more attention to papa. In town, less bodies began to turn up, less people went missing. By the end of that year, there was no sign of the animal or whatever had been attacking at all.

When I was a girl, I didn’t quite connect everything, not until I grew into it. I didn’t view the Frenchman with any disdain or anger until the murders started happening again. That second go around, though, had nothing to do with him. Men were dying.

The coachman watched me hike my dress to cross what I could very well call a river in the street. He smiled and winked. I stopped him before he could call me anything ‘nice’. I cut him off so as to not hear his questions of where I was from and where I was heading. They were masks for the real request to wind up in his bed. Had it been a different day, about a week later and a few hours from then when the moon was high and shining, I may have obliged him and we’d both have our fun, admittedly though, not at the same time. Mine would come after he’d tire himself out. I told him to follow the fancy black carriage headed to the east of the city. I whispered in his ear that I’d pay him handsomely.

There were times when I’d have to tell him where to turn and when. He was going by sight not near to mine. He couldn’t hear the differences in the hoofs of the horses that carried the owner of the toy flower I still carried in my hand. The smell of that cologne didn’t beckon to him like it had me.

We followed him on his way out of the city and towards an old country road. Dreary day turned to an even darker night. The driver lit both lanterns. After half a mile, our chase led through twists and turns. The leading coach swerved with no clear purpose. My driver did the same and they danced along the road step by step.

Then we stopped, both parties. The driver of my cowboy’s carriage hopped to the ground. I could smell metal on him. He had a knife or something of the kind. I received a smirk and a glare from the coachman closest to me. He knew the man was armed. In a flash, he’d hidden a pistol in his pocket.

“Miss, seems’s ‘though we’ve got some explainin’ to do.”

When he moved to meet the other, who’d stopped middle distance between us, I grabbed his arm through the window. I shook my head and exited on my own. The rain had ceased but it left behind unmistakable signs of its existence. My dress parted the mud in front of me. The brown muck added a new design to the green velvet.

The armed gentleman didn’t expect a woman. He didn’t expect anyone without a gun or sword. He left the knife in his pocket and gave me a nod.

“Miss. My fare’s been wondering why we’ve been followed.” He smiled and looked back, then returned his gaze to em. “In fact, he told me that some pretty little thing’d been watching him all day. He was sure she was the one on our trail. I was worried ‘bout a thief but it seems that the Yanks know a thing about observing.”

I didn’t have to explain myself. A woman in those days was seen as innocent no matter what they did. I could have went right to the man, pulled a pistol and shot him dead. Of course, I didn’t. Still the same, he was caught unawares. I stopped him from opening the door. I simply held the flower to him.

I did a little more than that. I desired him. It seemed the more I wanted someone, no matter if I made myself feel that way superficially or not, the less they could bear to see me leave. I wanted him in a very grand way. I pushed it as much as I could.

And then I turned, said my goodbyes and left. I was in my seat by the time he stirred. I counted to fifteen before I heard his door open. He was a strong man but a man despite his strength. He asked me to lunch the next day. I leaned forward, kissed his nose and the date was moved to dinner that night. It melted into breakfast the next morning. For the next week, we kept every meal between us. This hadn’t been my plan.

I’d never had a cowboy.

Of course, my first had been with a farmer, a boy twice my age, dramatically playing the role of a man. He’d meant to make me his wife. I meant to keep my freedom. I had not intended the accident to go as far as it did. I was practically a widow before my wedding day. The magistrate considered it legal, he didn’t have much and the paperwork to take his estate for king and country was too great for the reward. I was given the house, the land, the livestock and everything else he owned. The only thing I’d wanted was the dog. He was the sweetest hound and was very protective. I’d named him Donal. I’d given the rest to my papa, he was the farmer. I was the lady. Though I wasn’t much of one. I moved on to magistrates, guards, even a knight. But never a cowboy. Not until Mr. Gilbert.

Bertrand didn’t use me like I had him. It wasn’t mutual, the insincerity. It wasn’t like the others. He wasn’t like those other men that I’d had held down and squealing like a pig. He wasn’t anymore masculine. There was no shift in power, he couldn’t stop me from doing whatever I wanted and he never wished it to end. But things weren’t the same. He had a simpleness to him. There was wisdom there, but it was more natural. It wasn’t something you could learn from reading or thinking. The knowledge I could see for miles within him came from actions and the successes and mistakes they’d brought him. He’d lived more than almost anyone I’d known.

He struggled with something under his skin. I could smell it on him. The investor didn’t take, as he said it. The deal fell through and he’d been forced to pack his belongings and head out. When the telegram reached him, when he read the words, he sent his hand through a lamp close to the wall. The wood planks didn’t hold against his force either. The lamp, the wall, and his hand shattered. He was more surprised until he saw me staring from the bed. He said three words before going silent as the grave.

“I’m so sorry.”

I helped bandage him up. There was a rage in him. It wasn’t just a typical immaturity that some boys never grow out of. It wasn’t consistently about his own failures. Any stupidity or injustice or misfortune for anyone brought the heat and the red and the itching in his bicep. For whatever reason, it was more honorable than mine. We both had something violent. Most of the time he had the strength to control his. I’d see it flare. I’d see his eyes flicker and his jaw clench. He’d breath and it’d pass. Most of the time, I let mine free. No one knew, but it was their grace that mine came so few times a year. I was capable of horrible things everyday. But not always driven to it. Bertrand and I were alike in ways I just couldn’t tell him. I’d tried to. When he’d start in on his work and what he did, my mind would wander. I didn’t care about his business. I cared about him and I had so much more on my mind than mining.

I should have listened. I knew it was a metal. I knew it was precious. With my allergy, you’d think it’d be on my mind. I hurt him by my seeming indifference. He didn’t quite understand why I never wore the silver pendant he’d had fashioned. I didn’t understand why it was so important to him. I found out when I left my family and went with him across the ocean.

My parents were both sad and happy to see me go. They’d had their hands full and Bertrand was a good man taking an slightly awful girl off their hands. They never said those words but I could see it in my papa’s eyes. He loved me. He feared me. I had the hardest time leaving Donal. He didn’t have many years and we felt he couldn’t live through the distance. From the letters I received from my sister, he stayed happy til the end and then went by the fire with his head in her lap.

The travel was hard. It was too long to plan around my monthly problem. I helped him set up the dates. We were on the boat during the first full, bright mooned night. We were in Gilbert Mines by the second. I stayed in our room that night on the ship. I feigned a horrible sickness for the entire voyage. I didn’t need to stretch any acting skills. I’d traveled by sea before. I’d sailed around the bay in my childhood. But I had not experienced something so large swaying on the open ocean. Even my other form couldn’t quite catch her footing. But beyond the minor discomforts of explaining the marks and tears in the furniture I was able to keep civility alive. The doors were heavy, the windows were small and the walls were well built. The others were safe.

We stepped on land and straight to a train. I’d told Bertrand I wanted to see his town as soon as we could, that meant no staying in towns, no stopping for refreshments or fixing ourselves up. Our nightly exertions became dangerous. Though the curtains were drawn and the door locked on our private car, we were in constant fear of being discovered. We weren’t married, it would be a scandal. Neither of us really cared but it was exhilarating to pretend.

Gilbert Mines was different back then. It was thriving with all the right kind of people. It was the only stop along a trail that led from Oregon, down through the vacant, unwanted land caught between Nevada, the Pacific and the simmering gold rush towns to the south. I thought Bertrand’s fortune was based on the yellow metal as well. I found smiths there in his town. I found artisans with the skills of gods and goddesses shining through their lustrous works. It wasn’t the sun’s currency I found. It was the moon’s.

Bertrand, my fiance, the man I’d promised my heart to, dealt in the material that burned my skin at the slightest touch. The reflection from it hurt my eyes more than staring into the blazing glory of god himself. I felt betrayed by my own apathy towards his calling.

His best friend was a man named Percival Hunt, a deputy who couldn’t keep his eyes off me. I didn’t bear him any grudge. I didn’t bare him anything either. It was in my nature to goad men but I’d been taken harder than I ever thought I’d want. I truly loved Bertrand. No man, even in this land of cowboys, could take me away. Percy never tried. He never cornered me or even spoke a single word of longing. The Deputy was a good man, nosy as hell, but a fine gentleman. He asked me the longest, most convoluted questions about my family. His granny, as he called her, came over from Germany a good fifty years before. He felt a kind of kinship with me though I don’t know why. Ireland and Germany, I hope he knew, were rather far apart in so many different ways. I avoided Mr. Hunt. I didn’t like the questions. It got hard when he was the best man at our wedding. Got even harder when Sheriff Smith was found with his own bullet buried in his head. Percival Hunt took the star. His questions became inquiries, even if he didn’t want them to be taken that way. Still, I had to remind myself, that Sheriff was a good man.

Most of the men in the town were good, or close enough to it that they could be excused for anything less than. Some of them though, just weren’t men. They were something below it. They were something that didn’t deserve a name. Most of the Trenton boys were bred into it. Their mamas were always meek little women, taken in their prime and withered away by over use and under appreciation. The Trentons reminded me of some of the farm-fed folks back home. The women never had their say and they barely minded. They barely had any mind. The young Trenton wives were sweet little things. They hadn’t lived long enough to know what they were in for. They fell for the gallantry. They fell for the chivalry and lovely, stupid words that make a lovely, stupid girl fall for a plain stupid man. The older ones, separated by a generation, were leering mistrusting and jealous vultures. They’d watch anything with a set of legs and shake their heads; they’d suck their teeth at a girl that got any attention they were wishing they could have. I blamed the Trenton men for their harpy minds. When every bit of womanhood is drained from a girl, turning her into a married and mothering spinster, it takes a toll. I pitied the women. I hated those men. Bertrand would always tell me there was some good in them somewhere. He had to. They made up most of his workforce. Half the town had the name Trenton and if you spoke ill of them, you’d be in trouble.

I got tired of the Trenton and the Johnsons and the Hopes and all their fears and ideas about who I was and what I should be. Benjamin was the most outspoken. He would stick his elbow in my husband’s ribs and ask him where he scrounged me up. Bertrand’s hands would clench each time. He bit his own lip to bleeding once. I’d become a source of the anger. I know it wasn’t my fault, I was being no one but me, the woman he loved, the woman he brought to town, a woman who knew what it meant to not be a man and still hold her head high.

The doc had a smile when he told me I was pregnant. I didn’t. There hadn’t been much thought to children. We were active enough that it should have been discussed. We were so young that it was left to nature. I wasn’t sure how I felt about something growing inside me. I wasn’t sure how I felt about the pain. Worse yet, I was terrified of what it would be.

I didn’t care whether I had a son or daughter. I wanted a person. I didn’t want another me. By the pregnancy’s full term, I knew for a fact that I wasn’t going to have my desire. I was afraid it was inescapable and my fears turned true.

It didn’t hurt as much as I’d been told. There was a lot of surprise about how quick Elizabeth came into the world. She was healthy and strong and barely needed any care. That little girl learned to crawl and stand and walk and run as fast as a dog’s pup. Much to the observation and derision, my body went right back to its old shape. Bertrand kept saying how I looked even younger. He’d tell me I was more beautiful to him.

It seemed many thought so.

I still don’t know what was said but there was one night when Bertrand came back from the mines, growling and slamming every door he thought needed to be closed. He stayed away from me when he was like that. I gave him the same courtesy on my problem nights. That night, though, it was something more. He was bleeding, his knuckles were red and Sheriff Hunt had brought him home by the arm.

“You’re lucky Ben’s a sorry sum’bitch, Bert, you really are. No one’s gonna say things went down the way he’s sayin’ they did but, goddammit, I’m sheriff. I can’t side with my friends all the time.”

Bertrand patted him on the shoulder and gave a smile. He said he understood and agreed. He called him a good man and the Sheriff left.

I went to my husband when he sat down in the parlor and started to cry. Ben had asked how much it would cost to have me for a night. When he didn’t get an answer, he asked how much it had cost to make me Mrs. Gilbert. Bertrand couldn’t take it. He grabbed a shot glass and threw it. It shattered on that Trenton’s face. When Bertrand Gilbert saw blood, he wanted more. He jumped and brought the larger man to the ground. From the shape of his knuckles, he managed to get a few hard hits in before someone, probably the whole saloon, pulled him up. Ben took the chance and hit him and whoever was near with a, thankfully, poorly built card chair.

Bertrand didn’t let him go. After a week, everything was back to normal. Ben was in the house during Sunday supper. I was cooking for the man. Mr. Gilbert had released his rage. The Mrs. wasn’t supposed to take as much offense.

The problems came to a head. Elizabeth was getting older, able to be on her own for some time. She wasn’t calling out in the night from the same nightmares I used to have at her age. For her birthday, her daddy gave her a secret box. I didn’t know about the special present for his ‘Lizby’. He opened the package and held the shiny silver necklace. On the chain was a star, like the Sheriff she’d idolized in those early years. Before I could think, it was on her. He wasn’t able to clasp it. She started her shrieking. When Percy went to grab her, he was cut deep on his arms by her nails. They didn’t know it was the chain. There was enough smoke coming from her neck and where the charm had burned into her skin, though. I reached forward and ripped it off. I threw it down in on the ground. It’s shine was tainted with our skin and smoldering blood. I finally convinced the two men that she was allergic to silver. Percy wouldn’t stop saying how much of a shame it was. It was my own stupidity. I hadn’t taken care of it.

There were other dangers for our daughter. I could never be near her in my other form. I wasn’t afraid of doing her physical harm but I did remember the day the Frenchman awakened me. It was my nightmare, crawling through my head even in my age. He took me from my bed when I was a girl and brought me to the field. He changed, he fed on a sheep and then stared in my eyes. Those two yellow orbs were what I still saw, every night. I kept myself locked up and the few of those special nights I did allow myself to leave, I made sure she was hidden away.

I started living for her. Bertrand was a good man but his health wasn’t in danger. Everywhere we turned, silver trinkets and cutlery and inlays were threatening to melt us to nothing. Elizabeth wasn’t old enough to understand. She was brought to reflective metals like a moth to a flame. She touch something, feel the pain, then touch it again. So many days, I’d find her screaming over and over, trying to put that damn necklace on her own neck. The only thing she knew was that that was from Daddy, a sign of his love.

I forbid her from going to the mine, I couldn’t bear to imagine the horror that could have been had she found enough of the shining death.

I went one step forward. It was a step that took a long time to take. That single giant leap changed everything. I let myself change on a bright and clear summer night. I lurked to the mines and ripped everything apart. The carts, the tools, the support beams to the entrance, nothing was spared.

In town the next day, I heard tell of some attack. They thought a rival company was playing at something foul. They set guards around the mine at night, bought new tools and refitted the tunnels. I wasn’t quite done. The following nights were easier. I didn’t need full strength and I couldn’t always be so quiet and reserved when fully unleashed. I went as Amber Gilbert, though they never saw her. They heard noises and saw giant objects thrown through the dark. Benjamin Trenton was on duty. He felt something break his bones and laugh with glee as it swept through with the breeze. The rival company became a ghoul. Something to enrage them turned to their fear. Braver men came to Bertrand’s aid and I was forced to injure and destroy a little more, every night for a week. I couldn’t see the anger he was holding back. I couldn’t see the pain he was feeling. His empire was falling. His tower was crumbling down and because of something he didn’t believe in.

In the end, he was the only one left to guard his work. He brought a gun with him that night. I watched him through my other eyes. I tasted him in the air. He didn’t tell me it was his turn. I went without my human skin and that form desperately wanted his blood. I couldn’t understand it. Our heart was the same. We both loved him. Her love was different. She wanted him to be like her. I wanted him the same. I wanted him to be the strong, righteous person I longed to be. She ran at him with strength. I was tired, hidden behind the animal but I had enough to hold her back just enough. Her claws went through his chest. He saw her. By god, I swear he saw me in her, he wouldn’t shoot. He had the gun trained on us and still wouldn’t pull the trigger. I screamed behind the snout. I begged him for the bullet from under the fur.

She gave up for the night and I came back to control. I found my clothes and brought him to the house. He was breathing and talking. He saw me change. He told me how incredible it was. I wanted to slap him. Even through me nearly tearing him to shreds, even through him seeing the demon inside me, he confessed his wonder and love for me.

I brought the doctor but the wound healed quickly. It went as quick as my injuries did. It went too quickly. I thought, for a second of undeserved and foolish hope, that I had spread my curse to him. Somehow, I thought it would make things better, the three of us going through the pain together. I knew something was wrong, I knew I was wrong when he started screaming in pain every night. From what I could figure, it didn’t take. Whatever made Elizabeth and I what we were, was killing him. Silver kept it at bay but put him in even more pain. By the end, he was mostly a wincing, drunken version of his former self. It’s what Elizabeth remembered the most. We told her that he was being taken by some mysterious disease. She thought he was giving up because of his mine. I never told her any different until his funeral.

I took her close and tried to explain it the best I knew. I told her that I’d killed him. I told her that I’d never let anything like that happen again.

I took to proving the Trentons right. I became what they saw in me. It was the only way I could keep the house and keep Elizabeth in comfort. I sacrificed so much then. I didn’t deserve any of anything I was able to keep but my daughter did. She deserved all of it and more. I would not let her become me.

I told Danny to leave her alone. I went to Ben and tried to get his son to stay away from Elizabeth. Neither of them would listen. I could smell the meanness in the young Trenton. I’d seen it before, when he’d hit her as children. He never grew out of it. He let his handsomeness grow over it. He was damned from birth to be the same kind of sucking, horrible man his whole line had always been.

I smelled the flower first. He was there for Elizabeth, probably spurred on by his father. Had he not picked that night, perhaps I wouldn’t have so many regrets.

He didn’t know how close she’d gotten before our claws pulled him down. I cried that night, my tears coming from her eyes. I cried for Danny and myself. I cried the most for Elizabeth. I felt the pull, the desire my other side had to look into our daughter’s eyes and bring it out of her. We stood up and turned to the window.

That was all it took. Our mouth went back to the meal.

Percy showed up with his gun and put two holes in our side. I’m glad he did, eating the boy was making me sick. I stayed along the prairie for a few hours. We found a stage coach on its way back from a run. I tried, I did, but I was too weak and she was far too powerful. She’d won that whole night. It gave me a way to explain my absence and my injuries but nothing haunted me more than an innocent life taken for no damn good reason.

Things in town settled to a low hum. I told our youngest girl, Yvette, to keep a close eye on her. Because they were so close, I sent the girl away every thirty days or so. Those we care for can often times be the largest targets.

It was Elizabeth who tore the Johnson boys apart. Her first kill ended with those two brats strewn across the stream. It wasn’t just. It wasn’t right. Though they were ruffians and just as terrible as the Trentons, the Johnsons didn’t deserve to find their boys like that. I felt for Elizabeth. I thanked the lord for her strange habit of ignoring history and making up her own stories. I thought that maybe those books were doing her some good.

Babette saw me bringing her in, covered in the boy’s blood and crying her eyes out. I told her it was a misunderstanding. I told her it wasn’t what she thought. She smiled. She’d wanted more power in the house. She’d wanted more money. I was made to give it to her. She was silent and untouchable. That’s how she liked it.

No one but Percival Hunt mourned his brother. He attacked Elizabeth. He found her in a room, locked the door, and tried to take her. I’d heard his belt unbuckle. I moved as quick as I could but she took it upon herself. She split him, further in than I’d done to Bertrand. He was sent over the railing and down on the ground. I cleaned her and everything else up. It’s amazing how fast you can be with so much on the line. My dress was a wreck with his blood. I simply took it off. Percy nearly burst his pants when they found me in my room.

We had things handled. Every now and then there would be some problem, some issue we had to deal with, but life was going well. Mr. Terrence, however, was an unforeseen trouble.

Within a single sight, he’d grabbed Elizabeth’s heart and she wouldn’t let him let go. I envied the scent they were giving off. It reminded me of Bertrand. I did everything I could to steel myself. I sent them upstairs, knowing full well what the night may hold.

Babette should have kept her nose out of it. She should have kept in her place. I found her sneaking around Elizabeth’s room. I found her with a piece of that face, held like a knife. I came up behind her and gave her what I knew she’d wanted to give me for so long, what I knew she was planning on giving to my daughter.

They heard her scream and they must have ran as soon as they could. Elizabeth had become afraid of me. She didn’t understand my motives. She didn’t understand my actions. I couldn’t expect her to grasp the reasons for me.

I pushed Percy off the bed and on the sheet I laid down earlier that night. He rolled up easily. I left him there. Gilbert Mines held nothing for us anymore.

I went to Mr. Terrence’s room. The doc saw the blood on me. He frowned and shook his head. As he left, all he could say was how much a shame it all was. He kissed my cheek, told me we had his confidence and was off. He didn’t diagnose Mr. Terrence. He didn’t have to. He’d seen it before.

A knock came at our door not long after. Mr. Herrison held his coach door open. He smiled but was waving his hand to hurry us up. It was morning, too early for anyone to but up but that would change soon.

Elizabeth and I put Mr. Terrence in the seat of the coach. She wasn’t asking the questions I knew would come. She was caught in the spell of youthful acceptance. Life had a habit of sending things our way. Strong ones did what they needed to do and moved on. The weak asked the questions before everything was over.

There’s nothing kind about this world. It doesn’t matter where you go or who you know, you have to live for whatever you can find. Elizabeth was about to live for this writer who she’d known through the pages for so long. He was a fine man. He loved her, he loved life, he loved what he did. With any chance, he’d pull through and give her what I thought, for a single, fleeting moment, I’d have.

His eyes opened. Elizabeth took his hand. He went for the guns we’d left back at the Inn. We held him down until he let the weakness take over. The hole in his chest was little more than a cut now. He was still pale from lack of blood but that’d pass. We’d find food and in a few weeks, with any luck he’d meet the newest side of himself. He blinked, unsure of the circumstance. He looked at his chest, then to Elizabeth. There was a seed of acceptance. He looked like a strong one, in spite of his size.

When we finished telling him our story, he sat up and patted his pockets until he found a pen and a small bottle of ink. He looked at Elizabeth, then to me and spoke in words too simple to have any hidden meaning.

“Do you have any paper?”


About Aaron Shively

I have been working as a freelance writer and artist for the last decade. In that time, I've done everything from ghostwriting to toy design and everything in between. I am currently working on a novel series called 'Myth' which has held my attention for the past sixteen years. I have spent my time developing the world, character and story and am now ready to funnel all the preliminary material into the manuscript of the first installment, 'of Men and Monsters' Bookmark & Share

Posted on 05/21/2011, in Madam Delaunney's Inn, Short Stories and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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